Proposed Project to Increase Room Count by More Than 33%

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Reed Travel Features

ST. JOHN'S -- An Antigua government report about a recently signed proposal to build a major new resort complex and recreation facility calls the project a "shot in the arm" for the tourism industry here.

The plan calls for the building of a $200 million facility, including 1,000 hotel rooms, which would increase the islands' hotel inventory by more than 33%.

The island's active room inventory currently stands at 3,000 units, according to the report.

The report refers to Antigua's existing tourism plant as "time-worn and inadequate" and says that, ideally, the country needs 6,000 rooms and 11,000 beds "if it is to remain competitive going into the 21st century."

The creation of a 36-hole golf course, a casino, recreation and water-sports areas also are stipulated in the report, and most of these would be developed on the uninhabited Guiana Island.

Malaysian developer Dato Tan Kay Hock signed a deal in February with the Antigua government to develop the site, according to David Fernandez, director in North America for the Antigua & Barbuda Department of Tourism, located in New York.

The property slated for development lies mainly on Guiana Island, which is located about 100 yards off the Antigua coast, Fernandez said.

The island currently serves as farmland and as a preserve for the endangered fallow deer as well as for tropical birds.

Up to 1,000 hotel units will be built in several resort areas along the length of Guiana Island, all connected by a main access road, according to the government's report on the project.

Most of the development will occur along the island's northern tip and eastern side because these are the areas with beaches, according to the report.

Completion of the first phase of development is slated for December, Fernandez said.

Plans also call for the building of a casino, retail shops and residential developments on "the chain of small uninhabited islands É winding its way further south," according to the report.

The island chain referred to in the report includes Lobster Island, Red Head Island, Exchange Island, Pelican Rock, Lands End Island and Hells Gate Island.

According to the report, these islands suffered a loss of trees and severe erosion of soil and beaches following Hurricane Luis in 1995.

The project calls for the building of artificial beaches around the island chain.

This property was purchased by the government from private owners at a cost of about $5 million, he said, and then leased to the developer.

A bridge will be built to allow access to the island and into the resort areas.

The project is the first major resort construction plan proposed in Antigua since the Jumby Bay project on Long Island in the 1980s.

Officials from the ministry of tourism in Antigua could not be reached for comment on the project.

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